Terrific Tigers now leading Lions
summit daily news
While the saying is “tradition never graduates,” a more appropriate way to put it for Summit High rugby players is that they never really graduate from the team’s tradition: winning.
Kyle Armstrong and BrieAnna Barto are proof of that. The two SHS rugby alums are currently leading Penn State University over opponent after opponent on the Nittany Lions’ way to the Final Four of the national collegiate championships.
Although, the two play significantly different roles.
A 2007 grad, Armstrong is Penn State’s undisputed leader. A senior, All-American and the team’s captain, Armstrong plays mostly lock – sometimes 8 man – and is a major contributor, not only to the team’s on-field results but also from a leadership standpoint. Barto called her teammate “the most hard-working and deserving player to be named captain.”
Barto, meanwhile, is just a freshman on the team – yet is already making a strong impact. She was the Colorado state player of the year as a senior in the fall of 2008. She’s played scrumhalf for the U.S. Under-20 National Team, but working her way into the lineup for the Nittany Lions – a program that perennially puts out some of the best scrumhalves in the country – was a little tougher.
Eventually, she beat out two other strong players for significant playing time and is part of the 23 players headed to the Final Four next week. (Starters haven’t been announced yet.)
“This year has been extremely challenging but extremely rewarding,” Barto said. “Coming to play for Penn State is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions are on track for their third straight national title – a feat that’s never been done in women’s college rugby. They play the University of Virginia on May 13 in Stanford, Calif.
To get there, Penn State thumped its biggest rival – and another perennial national power – Stanford.
The Nittany Lions are classified as “Team Sport” at Penn State, rather than the club designation most schools have. This means the team is treated the same and has the same amenities as the rest of the school’s NCAA Division I varsity sports.
Playing at such a high level was made a bit easier for the girls through their experience at Summit High. Arguably the best girls’ high school program in the country, the Tigers put championship banners up at a rate that would make the New York Yankees jealous. They’ve won three straight state titles and haven’t lost a single game since 2007.
Barto is still impressed by what the Tigers accomplish – both when they’re at SHS and when the leave.
“SHS rugby’s accomplishments do amaze me,” she said. “But when I think how close and supportive our community is, it’s clear why our program is so successful.”
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